Sizewell: Packed meeting hears the latest proposals for nuclear power plant
PUBLISHED: 13:05 04 August 2014 | UPDATED: 13:05 04 August 2014
About a hundred residents packed out a village hall in east Suffolk to hear the latest plans related to the construction of a nuclear power plant.
Residents claim they missed vital letters from EDF
EDF Energy came under repeated criticism for its alleged failure to communicate effectively with the residents directly affected by its park and ride plans.
Many of those at the meeting claimed to have received little or no information about its consultation and said they were unaware of the company’s public events held to discuss the plans.
One resident who said he lived within 100 metres of the site claimed to have received no consultation while another said the questions it asked were “biased” in the company’s favour. Claims the company’s communications database was “terrible” were met with jeers of approval.
Head of communications Tom McGarry insisted the company had been “open and transparent” about its plans but said it was a “point of real personal regret” if people had not received all the information and pledged to rectify it.
“It’s a distinct concern to me if people are not receiving our communications,” he said.
“We need to know if you are not receiving it.”
However some residents questioned how they were supposed to know whether they had not received information.
“The emphasis if on you to inform us, not for us to tell you we are not receiving it - how can we know we are not receiving it, if we have not received it?”
In defence of EDF, a number of residents said they had received regular communications.
EDF Energy held the meeting in Hacheston on Friday night as part of its ongoing community consultations over Sizewell C and the associated park-and-ride planned for the parish to ferry workers to and from the construction site.
Head of communications, Tom McGarry, told the meeting that the power plant was not assured to proceed and stressed the importance of community feedback during the three stage consultation process.
“We still have a very rigorous process to go through to get the final proposal,” he added.
“None of this is a done deal – we are here to hear people’s views as we shape the proposal for how to deliver it.”
During construction, Mr McGarry outlined the company’s commitment to reducing the impact of traffic on the region’s road network by importing much of the materials by rail and freight.
Temporary accommodation is to be provided on site for between 2,000 and 3,000 workers to cut down on commuters’ journeys, with the park-and-ride schemes proposed to make further reductions.
“We believe over a third of the workers will be home based and we want to cut down their commute – we want to get them out of private cars and into coaches,” Mr McGarry said.
He explained the early stage of consultation had identified the Wickham Market site as the preferred option above Woodbridge and Potash Corner.
Although the public response was said to be supportive of the overall transport plan, Mr McGarry conceded “much of it was with caveats” and very little feedback had come from Hacheston or nearby. However, he stressed there would be further opportunities for residents to submit their views as the consultation progresses.
With many of the UK’s gas and coal power stations coming offline over the next 10 years, Mr McGarry highlighted the major role that nuclear plants had to play in delivering the country’s energy needs, He said the £14bn Sizewell C project would be expected to provide seven per cent of the nation’s nuclear energy, if completed.
EDF provided all the meeting attendees with a flyer displaying the company’s web address, where the consultation documents can be found, and other ways to contact the team.
The team can be contacted at Sizewell C Information Office, 48-50 High Street, Leiston, IP16 4EW, which is open 9.30am-5pm Monday to Friday.
For more information visit www.sizewell.edfenergyconsultation.info
Lord Marlesford has said EDF Energy’s park-and-ride proposal is a “non-starter” on environmental grounds and a flawed consultation.
“They are proposing to put something wholly unsuitable at a location that has been designated a special landscape area,” he said.
“It’s part of the Alde valley, it would be detrimental to the village of Marlesford and its effect would be every bit as damaging on the landscape as the solar park would have been, which I’m delighted has been vetoed.
“It’s a non-starter on any environmental terms, but secondly, there’s been virtually no consultation at all.
“In my view, the strategy of EDF is to say they’ve talked to people and listened to them and then say there’s been support.
“It’s no way to consult and I think the meeting on Friday very much demonstrated that far from there being support, there’s very wide and determined opposition from the great majority of people.” Questions were asked as to why alternative sites, further from residential areas and closer to major transport links, could not be considered for the park-and-ride.
Steven Lee-Foster of the No to Hacheston Park-and-Ride Group, suggested Foxhall, with its proximity to the A12 and A14 as well as the lack of nearby housing, would be a better location than Wickham Market.
“I don’t understand the rationale for having it so far north,” he said.
“I know Ipswich very well and all the evidence suggests that if you put a park-and-ride somewhere people will use it – and travel further to use it.”
EDF Energy’s head of communications, Tom McGarry, said the company had considered sites closer to Ipswich but had been deterred by journey times, costs, and practicality issues.
“We want to capture as many journeys as we possibly can and we want to make it as simple, easy and effective as possible,” he said,
Mr McGarry said the company “was not convinced” workers would use the facility if it did not have a quick, direct route to the construction site.
He added that an “easy commute” also played a part in attracting skilled professionals amid competition from other major construction projects.
Costs were also an issue, he said.
Villages bypass not our responsibility, says EDF
Long held aspirations to build a bypass around four Suffolk villages to ease congestion are unlikely to form part of EDF Energy’s Sizewell C transport plan.
Mr McGarry said that while the company acknowledges the four villages bypass – diverting the A12 around Little Glemham, Marlesford, Stratford St Andrew and Farnham – was of “local importance”, so its responsibility fell to Suffolk County Council. “The A12 is not EDF’s responsibility,” he added.
Under national planning policy, Mr McGarry said developers had a responsibility to prioritise sustainable modes of transport and do their “utmost to get traffic off the roads”. For Sizewell C, this meant putting forward plans to build a jetty and extend the East Suffolk Line to transport materials by rail and sea.
Road improvements, he said, would only be considered to cope with the “residual amount of traffic” that exceeded the existing capacity.
“Then and only then will we have a sound footing to progress the bypass,” he said. Based on current traffic modelling data, Mr McGarry said the only road schemes EDF would be allowed to propose would involve the notorious Farnham bend – an option which villagers have said is wholly unsuitable.
Stephen Burroughes, who is the county councillor for the affected villages, said he was “very keen” to support the plans and had arranged a meeting with MPs to seek funding from central government. However, he also said he was concerned EDF would try to “dumb down” the traffic management results and called for an independent organisation to evaluate the data.
Concern over consultation
The decision to extend the boundaries of where the park-and-ride may be built invalidated the consultation, residents said.
EDF Energy widened the boundaries of where it may site the facility, after learning that archeological finds may preclude development at the original site.
Marlesford resident Susan Wilson questioned whether the consultation would have yielded a different feedback if its recipients were informed about the later site plans.
“I think one of the major concerns from this is that the site you are considering is different from the site shown in stage one of the consultation,” she said.
“You’ve now added an area that’s bigger – we are looking at a site the same size again, stretching right down to Marlesford and yet Marlesford did not receive a questionnaire.
“If that had been your original site for stage one
of the consultation, I believe that the statistics you show, with more people in favour of the Wickham Market site, would have been completely different.
“I wonder whether your consultation has been flawed because you consult on one site and you are now considering another.”
Mr McGarry insisted the consultation was not flawed as the information would be updated for stage two of the consultation.